Personal Narrative Film, Video Manuscript/Mixed Material Photo, Print, Drawing Roy Orville Hawthorne Collection
Veterans History Project Service Summary:
- War or Conflict: World War, 1939-1945; Korean War, 1950-1953
- Branch of Service: Marine Corps; Army
- Location of Service: Okinawa Island (Ryukyu Islands); Pacific Theater; Korea
- Highest Rank: Corporal
- Collection Number: AFC/2001/001/52528
Roy O. Hawthorne was born in 1926 in Ganado, Arizona to a Navajo mother and a white father who operated a trading post on the Navajo reservation. During his first year of high school, Hawthorne dropped out to enlist in the Marine Corps at the age of 17, but would later go on to complete a PhD. He was assigned to the 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, and during the Battle of Okinawa, Hawthorne recalls taking part in the intense fighting on Dakeshi Ridge, where he called in a critical air strike using the Navajo Code. Hawthorne later served in the Army, where he became a paratrooper, rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant, and also fought in the Korean War, during which he experienced the Chinese Spring Offensive of 1951 before being wounded in the leg by shrapnel from a mortar round. Doctors amputated Hawthorne's right leg at the knee, but he persevered and stayed in the Army for several more years after the Korean War ended. After being medically retired, he completed seminary school and eventually became a Baptist pastor. Hawthorne also served as a tribal police officer, and was highly involved in the Navajo Code Talkers Association.
Interview / Recording
PlayDiscusses the use of English and Navajo names; birthplace in Ganado, Arizona; living near Lupton, Arizona for most of his life. 00:00:39.0 - 00:02:41.0
PlayWhy Code Talkers were rarely promoted; enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1943 at the age of 17; wanting to join Navy, but being required to join the Marine Corps; completing boot camp and being assigned to the Navajo Communications School. 00:02:42.0 - 00:06:37.0
PlayTraining as a Code Talker and communications specialist at the Navajo Communications School at Camp Pendleton. 00:06:38.0 - 00:08:45.0
PlayBeing sent to Guadalcanal for training with his unit; being away from the reservation for the first time; conditions on the Navajo reservation in the 1940s; running into a cousin of his--who was also a Code Talker--while on Okinawa. 00:08:50.0 - 00:12:01.0
PlayNavigating his own way to Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego with little understanding of how the outside world operated. 00:12:02.0 - 00:15:18.0
PlayTraining on Guadalcanal after the island had been secured, preparing for the invasion of Okinawa; being cross-trained on a variety of weapons systems and tasks; strategic significance of Navajo Code for keeping communications secret from the Japanese; important role that Philip Johnston played in development of the Navajo Code; Code Talkers and other military veterans' important role in destroying stereotypes about Native Americans. 00:15:19.0 - 00:23:32.0
PlayExperiences during the Battle of Okinawa; fighting on Dakeshi Ridge, being pinned down by machine gun fire for two days - sending radio message in Navajo Code to call in air strike that rescued the situation; high numbers of casualties on Okinawa, including to PTSD; talking to fellow Code Talker William D. Tsosie on the radio during the battle, then meeting him many years later. 00:23:46.0 - 00:31:18.0
PlayDescribes how the Code Talkers fit into the Marine Corps' organizational structure; experiences during the Battle of Okinawa; the demoralizing effects of coming under friendly fire; Japanese skill in intercepting radio communications meant that calls for fire support could only be sent in Navajo Code. 00:31:20.0 - 00:37:55.0
PlayBeing discharged from the Marines; being out of the military for two years before enlisting in the Army; serving in Korean War and being wounded there; differences between World War II and the Korean War; working in field communications in Korea; Chinese Spring Offensive of 1951; manpower shortages and problems with integrating replacements; describes the action in which he was wounded by shrapnel from a mortar round. 00:39:03.0 - 00:50:07.0
PlayAftermath of being wounded in Korea; being treated at a field hospital for wounds to his leg; spending a year in the hospital at Walter Reed; staying in the Army for several years after having his leg amputated at the knee. 00:50:08.0 - 00:55:15.0
PlayHawthorne's parents and family; his parents' livelihood raising sheep and selling arts and crafts; childhood with six brothers and one sister - all six brothers served in the military, three as Code Talkers; a grandfather served as an Army scout; two uncles were medicine men 00:55:18.0 - 01:00:04.0
PlayExperiences at school; area where he grew up had a lot bilingual speakers; students were punished for speaking Navajo even if they were just trying to help others; went to integrated public school until seventh grade, when he was sent to a BIA boarding school. 01:00:09.0 - 01:07:04.0
PlayContinuing his education all the way through a PhD; dropping out of high school to enlist; completed high school diploma while in the military; story of how Chief Manuelito valued education. 01:07:05.0 - 01:09:24.0
PlayHow military life helped him to mature; benefits of military service for him and other Navajos; benefits of the GI Bill. 01:09:25.0 - 01:12:20.0
PlayRecalls not feeling discriminated against while in the military; use of the term "Chief"; misunderstanding between ethnicities went both ways; story about white Marines assuming the Navajos could use a bow; different ethnicities grew to understand each other quickly. 01:12:21.0 - 01:16:51.0
PlayRecalls mission on Okinawa to capture a hill at night, when they surprised the Japanese defenders the next morning while they were preparing breakfast, but soon found they were up against superior numbers; they then used Navajo Code to successfully call for reinforcements and take the hill. 01:19:49.0 - 01:24:43.0
PlayBeing medically retired from the military out of Fort Carson, Colorado in the late 1950s; becoming a Christian after the Korean War while he was still in the Army; decision to retire from the Army was motivated by his desire to enter the ministry; marriage and family - five children. 01:24:44.0 - 01:26:43.0
About this Item
- Roy Orville Hawthorne Collection
- Chalmers Ford, Don
- Fleming, Carol Ellison
- Hawthorne, Roy Orville
- Navajo Code Talker's Project
- - Hawthorne, Roy Orville
- - World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal Narratives
- - United States. Marine Corps.
- - Korean War, 1950-1953 -- Personal Narratives
- - United States. Army.
- Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
- American Indian and Alaskan Native
World War, 1939-1945
- Branch of Service: Marine Corps
- Location of Service: Okinawa Island (Ryukyu Islands); Pacific Theater
- Highest Rank: Corporal
- Dates of Service: 1943
- Entrance into Service: Enlisted
- Military Status: veteran
- Service History Note: The veteran served as a Navajo Code Talker.
Korean War, 1950-1953
- Branch of Service: Army
- Location of Service: Korea
- Highest Rank: Corporal
- Entrance into Service: Enlisted
- Military Status: veteran
- Video: DVD [1 item] -- Reference copy (collected 2003-12-09; 2016-05-17)
- Video: DVD [1 item] -- Oral history interview (collected 2003-12-09; 2004-05-18)
- Roy Orville Hawthorne Collection (AFC/2001/001/52528), Veterans History Project, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
Additional Metadata Formats
Wars & Conflicts
Location of Service
Rights & Access
Using VHP Material in Publication or Exhibition
The Veterans History Project (VHP) at the Library of Congress collects, preserves and makes accessible the firsthand recollections of U.S. military veterans who served from World War I through more recent conflicts and peacekeeping missions, so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand what they saw, did and felt during their service. The Veterans History Project Collection includes oral histories along with documentary materials such as original letters, diaries, photographs, and memoirs.
Veterans and interviewers contribute these materials to the Library for scholarly and educational purposes, retaining any copyright they may hold. Therefore, permission must be obtained before using the interview or other materials in exhibition or publication. Researchers or others who would like to make further use of these materials should contact the Veterans History Project for assistance.
As a publicly supported institution, the Library generally does not own rights to material in its collections. Therefore, it does not charge permission fees for use of such material and cannot give or deny permission to publish or otherwise distribute material in its collections. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item from the Library’s collections and for securing any necessary permissions rests with persons desiring to use the item.
Please contact us with questions.
Obtaining Copies of VHP Materials
In order for VHP materials to be duplicated, we must receive written permission from the interviewee for you to obtain a copy of the recording unless the proposed use is limited to personal use, research, or other uses permissible by copyright law. If the interviewee is deceased, their next-of-kin may grant written permission.
Please contact VHP for assistance if you need to contact a veteran for permission to use their materials in exhibition or publication, or if you have received permission from the veteran and need access to high-resolution copies of VHP collection materials.
Citing VHP Materials
Please use the following formats when citing Veterans History Project materials (substituting the appropriate name and collection ID number).
Materials as a whole:
- John P. Snodgrass (AFC 2001/001/[VHP collection]), Veterans History Project Collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
- John P. Snodgrass (AFC 2001/001/[VHP collection]), Memoirs (MS02), Veterans History Project Collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
- John P. Snodgrass (AFC 2001/001/[VHP collection]), Transcript (MS04), Veterans History Project Collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
- John P. Snodgrass (AFC 2001/001/[VHP collection]), Correspondence (MS01), Veterans History Project Collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
- John P. Snodgrass (AFC 2001/001/[VHP collection]), Audio recording (SR01), Veterans History Project Collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
- John P. Snodgrass (AFC 2001/001/[VHP collection]), Video recording (MV01), Veterans History Project Collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
- John P. Snodgrass (AFC 2001/001/[VHP collection]), Photographs (PH01), photographer unknown, Veterans History Project Collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
- John P. Snodgrass (AFC 2001/001/[VHP collection]), Photographs (PH03-PH14), Ralph Williams photographer, Veterans History Project Collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
- John P. Snodgrass (AFC 2001/001/[VHP collection]), Computer file (CF01), Veterans History Project Collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
- John P. Snodgrass (AFC 2001/001/[VHP collection]), Artifact (AR01), Veterans History Project Collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
Cite This Item
Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.
Chicago citation style:
Chalmers Ford, Don, Carol Ellison Fleming, Roy Orville Hawthorne, and Navajo Code Talker'S Project. Roy Orville Hawthorne Collection. 1943. Personal Narrative. https://www.loc.gov/item/afc2001001.52528/.
APA citation style:
Chalmers Ford, D., Fleming, C. E., Hawthorne, R. O. & Navajo Code Talker'S Project. (1943) Roy Orville Hawthorne Collection. [Personal Narrative] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/afc2001001.52528/.
MLA citation style:
Chalmers Ford, Don, et al. Roy Orville Hawthorne Collection. 1943. Personal Narrative. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/afc2001001.52528/>.